When I arrived home from work this evening I did what I always do, I asked my kids about their day at school. I looked through the piles of worksheets and homework papers that they bring home each and every day. As usual, I sighed as I tossed the stack into the garbage can. Then I opened my 4th grader’s homework binder to find more worksheets and a dreaded BOOK PROJECT. I turned through the packet and read the directions which included spending the next week or so reading a book of his choice and then choosing one of 7or 8 ways to report about the book.
The choices included:
-creating a suitcase that includes things the main character would pack for a trip
-decorating a bottle with symbols that represent the themes of the book
-making a scrapbook that displays the characters personality or style and pages that illustrate a few scenes from the book
-decorating a cereal box and include information about the book on all sides
-making a map of where the action happened in the book and labeling it
And…wait for it…
-making a diorama with pop up pieces related to the book
The dreaded diorama…
As I stood in my kitchen and felt my blood pressure rising, I couldn’t help but think that absolutely none of the work that my child was being asked to do actually mattered. Think about it, have you ever read a book and thought,
“You know what, I’m inspired to grab and old shoe box and some construction paper and make a scene from the book”?
Or, have you ever read a blog post or professional book and said,
“Hey I have an idea, I’m going to decorate a bottle with symbols that represent the themes in what I’ve just read”?
I doubt it.
But, I bet you have read something and then called a friend on the phone to discuss your thinking. You’ve probably tweeted about what you read or even written a blog post about it. I bet it’s even possible that you have emailed a link to people and then shared a few emails back and forth about your thinking.
Why have you done these things?
Because, you’re sharing your thinking with a real audience and you get instant feedback when you tweet, email, blog and talk about what you’ve read! When engaging in dialogue with others about our thinking we see first hand that OUR WORDS MATTER!
So, I couldn't help but ask myself why my son was being asked to fill a shoe box with construction paper and decorate a bottle?
Later on, I sat down to check my Twitter feed and found that a friend had shared A.J. Juliani’s lastest blog post entitled “Your Words Matter”. A.J. writes about the importance of providing students with authentic experiences so they can share their words with real audiences. Amen to that!
Educators, we have to remember that we have the power to help children realize that their words matter and their thinking matters and their learning matters. We have to think carefully about how we are asking them to spend their precious time.
Do what matters.
Okay so I know you’ve heard someone say it. Or, you’ve said it yourself. And I’m not sure if anyone has asked before but, what the hell does that mean?
What do you mean you’re “wrapping your head around it”?
What do you mean that you “still can’t wrap your head around it”?
I’ll tell you what I think you mean:
You don’t want to put forth the energy to have a difficult conversation right now so you’ll deflect by saying, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it”. Or maybe it means that you really just want this supposed new idea to go away because it seems like you might have to move outside of your comfort zone. It could also mean that you really are just fine with the status quo and since whatever you were just complaining about can’t be fixed by someone else that you have decided to just continue to complain about it instead of making some sort of change within yourself to make it better.
I could go on and on, but I’m thinking that you get the idea.
Today I was watching a new video from Kid President called “3 Questions That Could Change the World”. In the video Kid President poses these three simple questions:
What are you not okay with?
What do you have?
What can we do about it?
Then, he asks all of us to join him for SOCKTOBER. He wants us to find homeless people and give them socks.
I have a feeling that he didn’t just sit around and say, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to help homeless people. I just can’t wrap my head around how to change the world.”
Instead, he asked his questions, came up with a plan and for crying out loud he jumped right in and tried something.
If we can all put our fears aside and instead start saying, “Let’s try it,” we might just stumble upon something AWESOME and we just might change the world.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.